Nordic Design

Design, Music and Life, by Alex Lillo

3 rules of crisis management

High on my list of designers’ sins, probably next to “good design sells itself”, is the lack of ability to reflect on your own acts and accept when you have fucked it up.

As professionals (you get paid for your work right? Then you’re a professional) we have to accept responsibilities for what we do. Be humble, do some soul searching, analyse the situation, understand your client and look for your own faults. Never get defensive, nor blame others. And definitely never get angry, that’s not going to take you anywhere positive.

And if it happens that you’ve made a mistake that’s fine. We all do mistakes, it’s how you manage them.

Here’s a simple recipe of what to do in case you (or your team, or somebody you’re responsible for) have fucked it up:

  • Tell your client that you’ve fucked it up
  • Tell her how bad it is, and why that happened
  • Tell her how you’re going to solve it
  • Move on

I read this on Helio Fred Garcia’s book The Power of Communication (brilliant book, you should read it), and it works. Also make sure that you control the timing of the crisis. You want to be the person calling saying we need to talk. You don’t want it to get so big that the client needs to call you wondering what the heck you’re doing with their budget.

Remember, design solves business problems, otherwise it’s art. Somebody, somewhere, has trusted her budget on you, to solve a business problem. And when things go wrong, you’re playing with that persons’ budget, and potentially her career.

So before blaming others about how they don’t understand your brilliant design, do some soul searching, maybe you’re also partly to blame (hint: you normally are).

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